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Nutraloaf: Why Teachers HATE Professional Development

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

An Open Letter to Administrators

If you haven’t heard of Nutraloaf, it’s basically a substance given to prisoners who haven’t made good choices.  I’ve read that it contains fruit, meat, grains, and veggies all ground up and packed into a warm, moist brick and served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! It looks gross and probably tastes worse.  Prisoners complain, but what choice do they have?  Officials say it’s food and provides proper nutrition to keep prisoners healthy. They’re required to feed prisoners, and Nutraloaf does just that.  End of story.

So, what does this have to do with teacher professional development?  Before the kids come back, teachers spend a week participating in icebreakers, listening to repetitive trainings, and completing random tasks that feel more like busy work.  Most of us hate these days.  Why?  Because it’s Nutraloaf.  It meets the requirements of PD, but is less than appetizing to our teacher brains.  It just isn’t meaningful or relevant.  Teachers don’t hate professional development.  They hate professional development that wastes their time.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

The vast majority of us work hard to improve our practice everyday.  We want to do what’s best for our students, and as new instructional strategies are developed and new research is published, we want to know about it and try it out with our kids to maximize the student experience.  Unfortunately, we’re still spending hours talking about learning styles (not really a thing) and being told how to implement district non-negotiables such as posting objectives and teaching the new Pearson curriculum “with fidelity.”  

How do we fix this?  A week is too much.  Truly.  Towards the end, my excitement about starting the year is gone.  I’m overwhelmed and only remember a few things.  The new requirements weigh heavy on my teaching soul and I want to go back to lazy summer days!  Here’s what needs to happen that week before the kids come.

Day 1–Schedules and procedures training

Day 2–Work in my classroom

Day 3–Work in my classroom

Day 4–Plan with colleagues

Day 5–Plan my personal lessons and prep for the first week

But don’t teachers need to learn new things?  Of course!  So let’s try something different.  

First, SPREAD IT OUT.  Let’s embed PD into our practice throughout the year.  Perhaps a day per six weeks without students, where we focus on what makes us better.  Give the kids a Friday off, and host a helpful PD session that day.

Host a training on Saturday, but give us that Monday off so we still have a weekend.  This way, as we see what our kids need, we can learn how to address those needs with meaningful PD experiences.

Second, PUT TEACHERS IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN GROWTH.  We want our students to be self-directed learners, so why isn’t this encouraged in teachers?  Let us plan what we need to learn and how best to learn it.  I personally struggled with a class that was difficult to manage this year.  I spent a few hours reading new strategies and watching Teach Like a Champion videos.  It was relative and had a direct impact on my students.  Give me credit for this.  I’ll gladly write a short reflection.    What about book studies?  Let us choose a book and chat with our colleagues about the new things we’ve learned and how we’re trying them with our kids.  Offer a variety of trainings throughout the year and let us choose what we’re interested in.  Key word: differentiation.  A fifth grade science teacher does not have the same needs as a 1st grade teacher, just as a veteran of 20 years does not need the same training as a brand new teacher.  Let us take advantage of the multitude of PD available online.  Many of us are doing it anyway, so why should we still have to sit through a week of mediocre activities at the start of a new year?  

Third, BRING IN EXPERTS.  Pool resources with other schools and districts and bring in leaders in the field of education like Page Keeley, Donalyn Miller, Lisa Van Gemert, Gretchen Bernabei.  Or put the funds in place for us to go see them and spend time at state and national conferences.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

Finally, TREAT US LIKE PROFESSIONALS.  I swear, if I have to walk around and do another human bingo about who has 3 cats or went to the beach this summer, I’m going to explode!  I doubt they do these activities when lawyers, medical professionals, and engineers gather.  Limit, or ban, stupid icebreakers and busy work that fill our days.  I don’t need to make an anchor chart of the non-negotiables I learned about at today’s training, nor will I benefit from you reading PowerPoint slides to me VERBATIM.  Ugh!

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

It’s time for PD to adapt and venture into the 21st century. Our classrooms are moving forward, why is teacher PD still the same as it was 30 years ago?  We’re hungry, we’ve made good choices, and we deserve better than Nutraloaf professional development.  

–The Pensive Sloth

Looking for back to school humor?  Find out what teachers are REALLY thinking!

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Teacher New Year’s Resolutions–Version 2017!

Christmas is over and I should be putting away my holiday lights and taking down the tree.  Instead, I spent the day making these!  It’s cathartic!  Year 2017 is just around the corner.  Happy NEW YEAR from the Pensive Sloth!  You can click here to see the lists from 2015 and 2016 if you would like.

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My Many Anchor Charts Monday

Here’s a quick photo post about what has been happening in my classroom the last few weeks!

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson's goals for the expedition.  As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ!  As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered.  AND we drew pictures!  I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear.  Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents???

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson’s goals for the expedition. As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ! As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered. AND we drew pictures! I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear. Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents??? Want you kids to LOVE learning about Lewis and Clark, click the picture for a rockin’ rap about Lewis and Clark.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings.  Fun!  We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings. Fun! We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress.  When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside.  I used smiley faces to cover up class averages.  Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR).  It certainly helps with motivation!

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post. Click the picture if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress. When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside. I used smiley faces to cover up class averages. Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR). It certainly helps with motivation!

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis.  Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action?  Check out the post on our Insect Zoo.

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis. Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action? Click this picture to read a post on our Insect Zoo!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson.  Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival.  Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork!  I certainly do...but I have fun drawing!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson. Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival. Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork! I certainly do…but I have fun drawing!

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Char

Reading Strategy Lesson…In science class?

While reading a short text on climate zones and the mountain effect, my kiddos struggled with some of the ideas that were being presented.  I decided that it was a perfect time for a reading strategy lesson!

While reading, I modeled and had my kids participate in a few things:

1–Drawing a picture to show the mountain effect, labeling the windward and leeward sides and which side would be dry

2–Substituting the words ‘in the middle’ for the word temperate to help kids understand temperate climates

3–Discussing the connection between river currents (that students were familiar with) and ocean currents

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Chart

When I read a science text I can…Anchor Chart